There have been plenty of outstanding running backs Lowell football teams have had to prepare game plans for, but after Friday’s 24-14 loss to Birmingham Brother Rice in the Division 2 title tilt, a new name may have played his way to the top of the leader board.
Warrior Devin Church amassed 244 yards on the ground while scoring three touchdowns in Brother Rice’s championship win over Lowell.
“He’s pretty darn impressive,” said Lowell football coach Noel Dean. “I don’t want to belittle the Brother Rice team by making this about one fantastic player, but Devin is one of the better backs I’ve coached against. I’ve coached against some good ones in my day – like the Grady brothers (East Grand Rapids); and T.J. Duckett (Kalamazoo Loy Norrix).”
While the coach watched Church in action from the sideline, Lowell senior Renn Osborne experienced his speed, quickness and bull rush on the field.
“He’s an amazing runner. You’re off balance waiting for his cut back, juke or spin move. He’s so fast and has got moves that he catches you off balance and that’s what gives his bull rush so much power,” Osborne explains
Church found the end zone in three of the four quarters. The Warrior back gave Brother Rice the lead in the opening 12 minutes with a seven-yard touchdown at 5:36 of the first quarter.
Then, with less than a minute to play in the first half and the score tied at 7-7, Church got around the end and raced 54 yards for a touchdown, giving Rice a 14-7 halftime lead.
Church sealed the deal for the winning Warriors in the fourth quarter, with his club leading 17-7, the senior tailback capped a two-play, 24-yard scoring drive, following a Lowell turnover, giving Brother Rice a 24-7 advantage.
“They are a fantastic football team. We knew that coming in. We struggled matching up with them up front on both sides of the ball,” Dean said. They are athletic and very strong up front. We were outmatched in certain spots, but gave the best effort we could. At the end of the day, if you’re outmatched, you’re outmatched.”
Trailing 7-0, Lowell tied the game in the second quarter on a 13-yard pass from Gabe Dean to Luke Bigham, capping a 13 play, 71 yard drive.
The Red Arrows final score of the day came with 3:41 to play in the game on a nine-yard pass-and-catch from Dean to Bigham.
“Lowell never gave up and showed character. I was still nervous up two touchdowns and a field goal,” said Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa. “You have to be lucky to get here. To come here and then win is really something.’
It’s the seventh time a Fracassa coached team has experienced the “really something.”
Lowell was held to 55 yards rushing and 199 through the air, by a stout, athletic and fast Birmingham Brother Rice football team.
“I think Forest Hills Central was the best defensive team we faced this year, but this team (Brother Rice) is definitely 1-A,” Dean said. “Our struggles on offense had to do with their defense.”
This, despite, Gabe Dean separating his left shoulder in the first quarter. “It had no affect on the game. It wasn’t my throwing shoulder.,” Gabe Dean said.
Lowell’s coach confirmed. “I guarantee that Rice’s defense had a bigger affect on our ability to move the football.”
Lowell finishes the season at 12-2, a year that marked a third straight appearance in the Division 2 championship game.
“I’m so proud of these boys (Gabe and Renn) and this class of seniors and what they’ve done for this town and the way they do things away from the feild,” Dean said. ‘They have been number one in the classroom and number one in the community. They have helped to raise $1 million for our Pink Arrow Project.”